IFM Pays Ex-Analyst Who Said Executive Invited Her to Hotel Room

(Bloomberg) -- IFM Investors has paid a reported 270,000 pounds ($353,000) to settle a claim of sexual discrimination brought by a former analyst who alleged that an executive had invited her to join him in his hotel room during a business trip.

Nathalie Abildgaard sued the Australian infrastructure fund claiming that she had suffered psychiatric damage after an executive director, Frederic Michel-Verdier, sexually harassed her while they were at a Madrid nightclub celebrating a deal, telling her he could teach her “a lot about sex.” She told a U.K. employment tribunal that she had no choice but to resign from the company.

IFM and Abildgaard confirmed the arrangements in a joint statement this weekend.

“IFM Investors and a former employee, Nathalie Abildgaard, have reached a settlement agreement in relation to Ms. Abildgaard’s Employment Tribunal claim including her claims for sexual harassment, constructive dismissal and victimization,” they said. “Both parties believe the terms of the settlement to be fair, and importantly, do not restrict Ms. Abildgaard from discussing the case. All legal proceedings will now cease.”

‘Significant Donation’

The Sunday Times reported that IFM paid Abildgaard about 270,000 pounds to settle, including a “significant donation” to a charity she set up to help people who have faced discrimination at work.

Abildgaard said she hoped her case would encourage others to seek justice after experiencing discrimination at work.

“I am especially happy that I can share my experience with others taking resource-rich employers to court for workplace harassment and raise public awareness of the barriers for individuals to get access to justice,” she said. “I hope my story will encourage others who have experienced discrimination in the workplace to seek justice.”

The case comes at a time when sexual discrimination in the workplace is under greater scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Regulators have stepped up efforts to monitor the working culture of financial firms and said they will hold managers accountable. Abildgaard made presentations in her evidence that the fund failed to combat sexism in the London office.

Bling Bling

The alleged harassment took place in March 2018 when Abildgaard and Michel-Verdier joined a small group that also included external bankers and lawyers working on the transaction at the Bling Bling nightclub in Madrid.

That evening, Abildgaard says that the manager told her: “I am so much older than you. You are young. I can teach you a lot about sex.”

In evidence to the tribunal, Michel-Verdier denied that he made any sexual advances towards Abildgaard. He said it may have been “irresponsible and naïve” to send his hotel room number to a female colleague.

Following IFM’s investigation, Michel-Verdier’s bonus was cut and he was banned from drinking at work events for 12 months.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.